The Georgia Swarm (0-1) fell to the New England Black Wolves (1-0) in the first game of the 2017-18 NLL season by a score of 13-11. 5,489 fans from Mohegan Sun Arena watched the defending champs leave hostile territory with the loss.
Georgia had a three-goal lead going into halftime, but a strong second half performance from New England allowed the Black Wolves to come back and maintain the lead. New England’s Kevin Crowley led the pack in its comeback win with three goals in the second half.
“I thought we did some things well tonight, but there’s a lot of learning to be done,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said. “We made some mistakes. The big difference was power play. We had four power play chances and only one power play goal, and we only scored three goals in the second half and gave up eight. We had control of the game and kind of got away from what works for us.”
The first quarter started off courtesy of David Brock in transition. Randy Staats evened things up quickly, but New England took the lead and widened it to put the team up by two nine minutes into the game. In his first game back after missing the 2017 season, Jesse King scored his first goal of the night at the 11-minute mark.
The Black Wolves would score twice more from goals by Seth Oakes and Kyle Buchanan. Staats and King brought it back within one before Lyle punctuated the quarter with a power play goal with one second left on the clock. Fifteen minutes in and the two teams were tied at five.
Georgia’s defense settled down in the second quarter, preventing New England from scoring at all in those fifteen minutes. King earned the hat trick two minutes into the quarter, and Kiel Matisz and assistant captain Shayne Jackson followed with goals of their own. The Swarm headed for the locker room up 8-5.
“We played our style,” Comeau said. “We were aggressive and disrupted a lot of shots, had some that went wide, got some shooting lanes, and we did a nice job of coming up with loose balls. That’s a big difference when we can keep teams to one-and-done possessions instead of giving up rebounds and then having resets.”
New England outscored Georgia 5-2 in the third quarter. Staats got the hat trick early to put the team up 9-5, but the Black Wolves rattled off three goals before Staats stopped it with his fourth goal of the night. Crowley took off from there, scoring two goals in under two minutes to tie things up at 10 apiece.
In the fourth quarter, New England remained in the driver’s seat. Jackson scored Georgia’s only goal in the quarter, but Reilly O’Connor, Shawn Evans, and Crowley sealed the deal to start the season out on the right foot.
Aaron Bold walked away with his first win with his new team, finishing with an 11 GAA and a .75 SV%. Crowley led the Black Wolves in goals with four, and Evans led the team with nine points (2G, 7A).
Mike Poulin earned his first loss of the season, allowing 13 goals to finish the night with a .735 SV%. Matisz and Staats led the team in points with five each (1G, 4A – Matisz; 4G, 1A – Staats). King recorded his hat trick in the first half, and Jackson notched two goals and two assists.
Georgia takes next week off and then travels to Denver to take on the Colorado Mammoth on Saturday, Dec. 23. Faceoff is set for 9:00 p.m. ET. Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.
“(The bye week) gives us a chance to really focus on what we need to do better, and then we get a chance to watch Colorado,” Comeau said. “They’ve had some personnel changes there. We’ll watch them and try and come up with a game plan to be competitive.”
The Swarm’s home opener will be on Saturday, Dec. 30. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. The home opener will feature the unveiling of the Championship Banner, a ring ceremony as the Swarm players receive their Championship rings, and a halftime performance by Atlanta-based GRAMMY® Award-winning hip hop artist 2 Chainz. Tickets for this historic night are available at GeorgiaSwarm.com/2Chainz or by calling 844-4-GASWARM.
Play of the Game:
A rough second half does not change the fact that Georgia’s defense prevented New England from scoring once in the second quarter. Some key saves by Poulin and smart, aggressive defense from the boys in blue and yellow allowed Georgia to take the lead in the second quarter and go into the locker room with a lead.